Chelsea Griggs and Armistice Travis Ryan knew they wanted to bring something unique and different to the downtown Middlebury community. So, when the storefront opened up, they jumped on the opportunity to purchase 40 Main Street, the former home of Main Street Stationary. All they needed was an idea.
Chimney cakes, or Kürtőskalács — Hungarian sweet cakes made with a yeasted dough wrapped into a cone shape and filled with a variety of flavors — soon caught Griggs’ eye on Pinterest, and she knew they would be perfect for the new store front. Now, the couple is in the process of renovating the downtown space to open Chim Chimney Bakery in April 2024, with hopes of bringing a new treat to the Middlebury community.
“They’re so unique and so different, we knew it wouldn’t hurt any existing business,” Griggs said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to introduce them to a diverse group of people,” she added, explaining why the couple chose this treat to focus on for their store.
After settling on their idea, the couple dove headfirst into learning everything they could about chimney cakes. They took a road trip around Europe for a week to learn about the treat's origins and traveled to different areas to taste various chimney cakes and determine which they liked the best, what tastes and styles they wanted to bring back to Middlebury.
Their favorites were from DoberKurtos Academy in Slovenia, where they stayed with the academy’s owners to learn more about the dessert. The family taught them cooking techniques and how to use all the equipment, which the couple purchased and brought back to the US.
Since returning to Middlebury from their training, Griggs and Ryan have been working tirelessly to develop their own recipes. The pair expressed their commitment to using locally sourced ingredients such as dairy from Monument Farms Dairy. Despite facing several renovation delays due to issues finding a contractor, they have gotten to work opening a chimney cakes food truck in the meantime.
“We thought it would be a good way to introduce people [to the business],” Griggs said. Chim Chimney’s food trailer made its debut at the Franklin County Field Days in Highgate, Vt., in early August. “The first day people mostly walked by curious and judgmental. But as people started to carry them around, the interest grew,” Griggs added .
By their second event at the Addison County Fair and Field Days on Aug. 8–12, the food truck was selling out every day, far more than expected. “We put a lot of time and love into everything we do and produce… it was really nice to have people supportive of our product,” Griggs said.
Griggs explained that they are most excited about being on Main Street and giving back to the downtown Middlebury community.
“I love to feed a ton of people and have them be happy,” Griggs said. The couple is looking forward to joining existing Middlebury shops downtown and participating in community events such as local festivals and the college’s upcoming Fall Family Weekend.
As Griggs and Ryan hoped, the local downtown community is also looking forward to Chim Chimney Bakery’s opening.
“I think that having more very unique places in Middlebury is going to help us as a city grow into a really amazing place for people to visit,” said Tatiana Dale, general manager of Otter Creek Bakery and Otter East Bakery and Deli. Dale added she was excited by the potential for other companies and entrepreneurs to come into Middlebury and bring something new to the community.
Dale also spoke of the tight knit business community Chim Chimney will be joining.
“Having that sense of camaraderie with your fellow business owners is really important,” Dale said. She said she believes that the most important factor in a business, particularly in a small town like Middlebury, is having a dependable and reliable staff.
Dale also described how having more local businesses will help with community development and create jobs for Vermonters. “Bringing more career opportunities for our local population and people who have been in Vermont for our whole lives is fantastic,” Dale added.
Current flavors at the Chim Chimney food trailer include Philly Cheese Steak and Almond Joy. According to the business’s website, other flavors to look forward to are a meatball sub with whipped ricotta in a mozzarella cone and a non-dairy option.
Chim Chimney Bakery currently hopes to open in April 2024, but will continue to travel to events in their food trailer and share updates on their Facebook page until then.